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July 17, 2016 | by  | in News Splash |
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Let the mayoral race begin—Election coverage part I

On October 8 Wellingtonians have the opportunity to vote for their preferred candidate to become Mayor of Wellington.

Local body elections happen nationwide every three years and see people people vote for their preferred councilors, community board members, and mayor. Under the Wellington City Council (WCC), the city is broken up into five wards—Lambton, Southern, Eastern, Northern, and Onslow/West.

All registered voters are posted their voting papers, which they need to fill out and return to the Council Electoral Officer before the deadline. Votes received after noon on October 8 will not be counted. The system of voting for 2016 is yet to be confirmed, but the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system has been in place since 2004. STV is a proportional voting system whereby a voter has a single vote which they cast by ranking their preferred candidates.

Anyone wanting to run for mayor has until noon on Friday, August 12, to be nominated.

VUWSA, being the good souls they are, will be launching a website ( to run alongside the candidate’s campaigns, which Welfare Vice President Rory Lenihan-Ikin says will support the association’s “vision for a Student Friendly Wellington.”

“The website will mainly be informing students about the issues, focusing on fares and rental WOF, as well as some information about voting.”

VUWSA will begin publicising candidates positions on their policies in a few weeks time.

In the lead up to the elections Salient will be running a series of interviews with the candidates to find out the information students need to make an informed decision come voting day—like whether or not they watch GoT and how many pets they have.


The Candidates


Celia Wade-Brown

Wade-Brown has been Mayor of Wellington since 2010, and is seeking her third term in office.

During her time as mayor, Wade-Brown believes she has made great achievements in the Arts, citing CubaDupa, The Hobbit premiere, Edinburgh Tattoo, Africa Day, and the Korean Festival as standouts.

She was also the driving force behind the shared Tawa-Porirua and Kilbirnie pathways.

If elected for a third term, Wade-Brown hopes to continue moving forward with the planned Movie Museum and Convention Centre. She also has plans for the Urban Development Agency to build greener houses and “catalyse redevelopment near transport and facilities.”

Growing up in West London and studying at the University of Nottingham, Wade-Brown moved to Wellington with her husband in 1983.

She is a member of the Green Party, and has spent a total of 19 years in Wellington local body politics across two separate stints.


Jo Coughlan

Jo Coughlan was first elected to the WCC in 2007 while representing the Onslow-Western Ward, and in 2010 became Chair of of the Economic Growth and and Arts Committee.

Coughlan’s proposed policies cover the economy, community, environment, and culture—with her main policy platform being infrastructure and transport.

The policies seek to acquire government funding to create a “world-class progressive compact city.” This would centre around getting traffic flowing around the Town Belt and the Terrace, “sensible cycleways,” an additional (?) 50-metre pool in Kilbirnie, and more efficient public transport.  

Coughlan’s business, Silvereye Communications, “assists a range of clients across a number of sectors with government relations, strategic PR, and communications support.”

She was a 2015 finalist in two categories of the Westpac Women of Influence awards and was a 2009 Finalist in Wellington’s Women in Business Best New Business Award.

Coughlan has lived in Wellington for 25 years, raising her six children here.


Justin Lester

The current Deputy Mayor of Wellington, Justin Lester, is seeking the Mayoral role because he “loves Wellington and wants to make it even better.”

Lester—who is supported by the Labour Party—has promised rates rebates for first home buyers, free pool entry for children under five, a freeze on public transport fares, and discounted fares for students.

He also plans on supporting continued growth of the local economy by removing fees for outdoor dining on public land, continuing to invest in the laneways, and continuing investment in public events such a CubaDupa, Wellington on a Plate, and Lux.

Raised in Invercargill by a single mother, Lester was the first in his family to attend university—completing a LLB/BA from University of Otago and a MLL at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

Lester currently lives in Johnsonville with his wife Liz and their two daughters.


Nicola Young

Currently a Councillor for Lambton Ward, Nicola Young has been involved in local body politics since 2013.

A journalist by trade, Young has held positions in journalism, public relations, and consultancy. Upon moving back to Wellington (from London) in 1996, Young started Viewpoint Communications—a “communications and political strategy consultancy.”

Young is running for mayor as an independent, emphasising that she isn’t in it to be a career politician but wishes to “serve the city of her birth.”

If elected, Young hopes to freeze work with the universities to solve the student housing crisis, freeze rates at inflation, work with central government to solve traffic congestion problems, stop “Council’s secret spending,” and get a “fair deal” on the airport runway extension.  

Young is an honorary member of Victoria University’s Alumni Association, a recognition she received for work done for the New Zealand School of Music. She has also sat on the School’s Advisory Board from 2002–2006.   


Nick Leggett

Current Mayor of Porirua, Nick Leggett, has chosen not to seek a third term with his current Council, instead pursuing the top job in Wellington.

Despite not having clearly outlined policies, Leggett is campaigning as a task-orientated candidate who wants to see tangible action taken around infrastructure. This means “getting the basics right”—addressing the finances, roads, pipes, and footpaths.

Leggett also believes the council should put “vanity projects” on hold, as not to compromise their financial situation for future generations.

Describing himself as a “lifelong Wellingtonian,” Leggett’s parents and their parents and their parents have all been raised in the Wellington. He attended Tawa High School and holds a BA in political science from Victoria University. Leggett now lives in Johnsonville with his wife Emily and their two children.

You have probably seen his face on the back of a bus at some point.



Keith Johnson

With a background in public policy and economics, Dr Keith Johnson is running for mayor as an independent candidate.

Despite having no experience in local or central government politics, Johnson—a self-described “longtime radical”—wants to give voters “a real opportunity to reject the other candidates who will endorse the [current council’s] big ideas and big spend concept.”

The reining in of council spending is one of his top policy plans, along with his opposition to the proposed $300 million airport runway extension.

Like other candidates, he is also concerned about the traffic congestion around the Basin Reserve during peak hours.

He ran for mayor in 2013, but withdrew early in the race due to a lack of interest.

Johnson holds a BA and MA from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in Economic Geography from the Australian National University, and has worked in almost 30 countries across the globe before settling back in Wellington.


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